15 April 2013

Parents' Responsibility Regarding The Prom

Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them! He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.
Children are a blessing. They bring us joy . . . hope . . . love . . . strength . . . help . . . respect . . . and they gift us with responsibility, which is a blessing. With these beautiful children in our lives - whether or not the children are living in your home with you - you have the desire to protect them, to guide them, to help them, and these responsibilities are not heavy; they're our children.

And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
The Law from Moses includes these commands from the Father Himself. We are instructed "you shall..." - no mere suggestion - to teach them, to train them, to live the life that we are supposed to live in every step we take so that they learn from us whatever we do. Why wouldn't we want to?

Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.
 Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.
These laws from the apostle Paul, given to him from the Lord, also instruct fathers to train their children in a way that they will learn the Truth, not in spite of our rudeness, but because we don't bring them up instilling in them a sense of rebellion and a desire to break away.

Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right.
Children are not let "off the hook" of responsibility. This is no mere suggestion that children should learn from their parents or their elders, and this is repeated both in the Law of Moses, the Proverbs, and in the Law of Christ. But children cannot learn if they are not taught. If you do not teach them, train them, discipline them - even when they are older and almost ready to live on their own - they will look for instruction and example and inferences on how to live from elsewhere. But who knows if perhaps you were made a parent for such a time as this?

The question should not be placed entirely on the child or young adult who is trying to follow God's will, because "they should know by now". As mature adults, we have a responsibility to help the young and the weak to take more careful steps. Are we encouraging our young people, new believers, even our own peers, to walk carefully so as not to slip and fall, or to trip up someone else? Or are we letting them struggle along on their own?
Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted. (Galatians 6:1, New American Standard Bible)

The questions of The Prom - though the answers should be explained to our near-adult children - are questions for parents, grandparents, older friends and neighbors.

Should we leave it up to our children to make their own decisions, or even encourage them to go, because everyone else is going, or because you did when you were young, or because they might "regret" not going, or because it's just the thing to do? Are these good reasons for doing anything?

Should we, as the money makers, design and promote our own proms, or prom alternatives, or quinceaneras and sweet 16 parties, like the cotillions and coming out parties of older generations?

Should we even encourage the lifestyle of attending formal dances and fancy dress banquets, in order to spend money on ourselves for the achievement of an age bracket, or a grade level in school, or just because it's fun, or because we want to do what everyone else is doing but do it safely?

Now, I do realize that I may "go too far". I know that Prom and its look-alikes are cultural "rites of passage" that will not go away quietly. Neither will the pretended ignorance of the real meanings and modern celebrations of pagan holidays, or ignorance of the original meanings of curse words and filthy language, make those things go away. No, our toning these things down is like planting a garden of thistles. Keeping them growing along a border in a neat way, decorating them with bright colours or filling them with candies does not change their nature; it merely has us believing that even thorns can be made beautiful if you are creative. And the weeds will continue to grow and choke out the healthy garden foods, just as filthy talk and wild holiday parties and dances will continue hide in the nice decorations that we try to cover them with. Would it not be better rather to eliminate or having nothing to do with these things in the first place, than to merely dress up something worldly as "redeemed", as some claim to do? What about something completely different?

Photo from One Year Bible Blog

There are some things that are always good, and things that are not. We are aware of the "works of the flesh" - those things that please our flesh and blood but that will pass away, and in the meantime may tear apart our precious soul and spirit. We must consider for ourselves things like:
  • "Immodest dress
  • "Dancing that looks like something out of a Snoop Dogg video
  • "Drugs and alcohol
  • "Pressure for sexual activity
  • "Music with immoral messages" (the above list from "Should We Let Our Kids Go To Prom")
  • "Dancing" that is called "grinding", which looks even to un-Christian parents like "vertical sex"
  • Fostering romantic relationships between those who are not looking for a potential spouse
  • Spending excessive amounts of money to please oneself for a one night event
  • Hanging around with people which may cause us or our friends to behave in a way that does not "make for good works," rather than "fleeing" from questionable activities
  • Music that is secular, promoting a world view that is not Christian, which does not uplift or encourage, but merely makes us "feel good" (this is a hard one for me to write here but something I have to catch myself on too)
  • Lying to yourself and to your children that spending much time with those in the world is really in order to teach them the truth
Photo from Scripture Wallpaper

People of all ages and backgrounds (religious and irreligious) will point out to you that The Prom is not necessarily a den of iniquity, filled with every evil thing. You will be told that their Prom, or alternative dance, will be have rules and chaperones. It will be explained carefully to you that it is not the Prom itself where these occur, but in the after parties that children attend with or without their parents' knowledge. (Read "Educating the Next Generation" for one volunteer adult's description of a local prom with rules and plenty of chaperones.) And so, they will point out, the Prom is a good thing. But, ask them, good for what?

And you know that Prom has expectations attached by others. In a world where parents more and more are giving up their blessings - their children - to rearing up by secular or rarely present hosts, children will learn to behave badly, having little to no moral instruction. Even Christian parents leave the training of their children up to the school or "the church", and those children do not receive much of the training that they could have had, since once or twice a week in Bible class, and maybe a summer camp one week a year, is not diligent training. Parents: please take your blessings and your responsibilities seriously. Children: please listen to your parents.

In the end, attending The Prom, or any event, is going to be a decision made by each individual, and not all decisions - even those made in prayer - will be the same.
Welcome with open arms fellow believers who don’t see things the way you do. And don’t jump all over them every time they do or say something you don’t agree with—even when it seems that they are strong on opinions but weak in the faith department. Remember, they have their own history to deal with. Treat them gently. (Romans 14:1, The Message)

So this is the last I will write in this series regarding The Prom, unless I receive comments under any of the posts this month. The information is out there, and you can read my own opinion here, if that is of any consequence. I hope that you as a parent or as a young person who is reading these brief articles and links, will think about the cultural push to attend fancy dances and dress up dinners. Can it be done to the glory of God? That is for you to decide and to act on. Perhaps you will decide to celebrate the blossom season of the world with long walks taking photos, making scrap books, having gospel music singing times, hosting a pot-luck dinner (or series of dinners) with good friends, making a trip to a small farm or even a foreign country to help others in need, getting a group together to sing at a retirement home, work out your first Bible class lesson to share with others, go on a trip to visit a place with a small congregation of God's people to encourage them . . . I mean, there is just so much that is available to spend your time and money on (other than fancy dress balls) that will reflect living by the Spirit. And as the man wrote, there's no law against doing good things.

Photo from Catholic Faith Education

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